By Shashank Kishore in Sylhet
Team needs to work on all aspects of the game and aim to contain England’s experienced batters in a high-stakes clash
India Women's fortunes have plummeted alarmingly over the last two years. In the interim, West Indies has leaped ahead and teams like South Africa and Pakistan are fast catching up. Therefore, it was imperative for India to start well against Sri Lanka, a team against which it has had more success than any of the other big teams in recent times.
But lax fielding and poor shot selection proved its downfall, resulting in a 22-run loss, leaving India Women with a mountain to climb against England in its second Group B fixture of the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2014 at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Wednesday (March 26).
With that kind of margin, all departments of the game are bound to come under scrutiny. But the one blaring truth was the poor fielding standard. The unit looked haggard and two dropped chances at vital times didn't help the cause. India captain Mithali Raj was the first to put her hand up for the disappointing show, but didn't put it beyond her young team to fight back.
"The fielding lapses have proved costly for far too long now," Raj observed. "We definitely need to improve. Also, we don't play too many games under lights, so it's good exposure for us, a chance to get used to it. Overall, I think we're still capable of playing well and winning. What we need to now start doing regularly is seizing the key moments under pressure.
"We've somehow slipped in that department time and again. If we can do that, I'm sure the results will go our way. I think our problem is more in the mind, but with the amount of games we play, it's tough to work on those aspects."
Jhulan Goswami's vast experience will stand the team in good stead but her inability to strike upfront with the new ball as often as she has in the past has been a worry. Despite that, where India scored on Monday was its ability to chip away at the wickets every time a partnership was brewing.
The spinners, although not threatening, were steady and largely stuck to good lines and lengths. On a number of occasions, they even forced the batters to play one big shot too many, which came out due to the pressure. The batters, though, need to step up and reduce the weight of expectation on Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur.
England too has a few holes to plug. One would assume having two of the top three batters in the T20 International rankings – Sarah Taylor and captain Charotte Edwards – would leave the team with little to worry about, but that’s far from the truth. Although it has a reservoir of experience to bank on in the batting department, the lower order looks out of depth, perhaps an area India should look to exploit.
The team’s best bowler in recent times has been Katherine Brunt, but her injury has meant Anya Shrubsole and top-ranked T20I bowler Danielle Hazelle have had to carry the bowling attack, particularly with two young spinners – Jodie Dibble and Rebecca Grundy – still inexperienced.
Grundy picked up a wicket and conceded just 20 off her four overs against the West Indies on Monday, while Dibble, who went for 21 off her two, came under fire from Stafanie Taylor and Kycia Knight. But Edwards felt they needed time to mature and won't be judged on the basis of one outing.
"I thought Grundy did very well, Dibble was a touch expensive, but we're looking at them to definitely do a lot more work in the tournament once the wickets start to take later on," said Edwards. "On these wickets, I think it's important to score runs upfront, it gets really tough to score towards the end."
England has plenty at stake, for a new era was ushered in just before it set out for the World T20. Twin Ashes wins in a span of six months made them the first professional women's cricket team. While that has paved the way for central contracts and bonuses, it brings with it added pressure, and Wednesday could be tough examination.
India: Mithali Raj (capt), Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Madhuri Mehta, Latika Kumari, Karuna Jain (wk), Jhulan Goswami, Gouher Sultana, Soniya Dabir, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Sravanthi Naidu, Shubhlakshmi Sharma, V Vanitha.
England: Charlotte Edwards (capt), Sarah Taylor (wk), Tammy Beaumont, Kate Cross, Lydia Greenway, Rebecca Grundy, Jenny Gunn, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Frances Wilson, Jodie Dibble, Georgia Elwiss.